'Never Say Never'
(Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Ludacris, Jaden Smith, Randy Phillips, et al / G / 81 mins)
Overview: Teen pop idol Justin Bieber toplines his own biographical film, which reinacts his rise to stardom alongside real-life concert footage in this 3D Paramount Pictures production. Jon Chu (Step Up 3D) directs.
Verdict: The Bieber movie, a concert experience and origin-myth documentary, is not good—not that it needs to be. It is draggily paced and lacks felicity of form; the 3-D is a rip-off and the songs are pap, save a snippet of Etta James singing “At Last” while Bieber’s glossy fringe sways in slow-motion.
The build-up to a Madison Square Garden climax-concert roughly structures Never Say Never; a throat infection creates the threat of cancellation, before “Get well” Tweets reinforce Bieber’s rededication to showbiz grind and “u,” the fans. Interspersed is a retelling of Bieber’s journey, from small-town boy in Stratford, Ontario, to the outbreak of Bieber Fever.
A convincing case is made that the YouTube phenom was a talented kid with a knack for sponging up Top 20 radio styles when promoter “Scooter” Braun discovered him. From there, the movie admiringly details the stoking of a phenomenon by Braun and Team Bieber; ennobling marketing hustle, JB: NSN is A Hard Day’s Night half devoted to Brian Epstein.
There’s no scrimping on the Bieber here—we see him serenading onstage, shirtless in the dressing room, in home videos, and in “candid” hometown visits—but he’s a curiously vague presence, obscured in the shadow of this monument to his brand.